How important is social media strategy to business leaders? Do enough CEOs and MDs know, or care, how their business is using social media as part of its marketing, research or customer service? Are they looking at how customers are talking about their products or brands online?
There’s certainly cynicism from boards as to social’s ability to deliver meaningful ROI.
This was reinforced by a FT/ICSA survey that showed that almost half of boards surveyed hadn’t discussed social media in the last 12 months.
Contrast this with another recent article in PR Week which claimed that social media is a ‘ticking time-bomb’ for businesses. This seems to suggest that businesses are hugely concerned about the impact of negative online comments. If this is case why are boards of directors not discussing such a vital topic?
What’s the point of social?
Social media marketing is growing in importance. As a result directors are starting to pay attention to its role. We’ve pitched on several occasions to leadership teams, often with a focus on the reasons why social is important, how consumers use it, what businesses get from it, etc. CEOs and senior colleagues quite naturally want the focus on the social media strategy, its objectives and KPIs.
There are many in the PR sector who feel that the consumer landscape is changing. This gives PR scope to sit at the top table, leading the development of communications strategies as traditional advertising agencies lose influence (or potentially so, as the landgrab for digital and social is also on Adland’s radar).
Data is key so don’t abuse it.
Getting a handle on data and better planning are key, and many PR and social agencies are investing in these areas. Yet, as a sector, do we shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to credibility?
Take the PR Week article on reputation management referred to earlier. To be fair, the agency that conducted the survey found some interesting results on the impact of negative reviews and malicious content. My issue is with the report’s claims that the cost of this runs at £47,000 per company.
Even worse, the article then extrapolates the cost of this to the UK economy at a whopping £70 billion. Yet no attempt is made to explain the methodology behind such as ridiculous claim.
Is it any wonder that CEOs are wary of social? It’s no surprise that rubbish like this detracts from the brilliant campaigns and results many of us see and deliver for clients.
Board level social media: it’s all about ROI
The other big challenge is ROI. Boards don’t want to discuss the minutiae of social. They don’t care about how many retweets there have been or how many online complaints.
They want cold hard numbers. So social audiences should be of interest to any B2C board given declining consumption of print media, increasing time spent online.
Marketers must ensure that investment in social media can be compared with other activity. Budgets and resources are finite. Social needs to sing for its supper.
A board’s role is to ensure shareholder returns. It’s no great surprise that only a tiny percentage of boards see social as important. Yet this is changing. Consumer brands are seeing how it can impact a business. M & S Chairman Robert Swannell sums this up well:
“Increasingly, it’s part of the requirement to be a chief executive that you have someone who is digitally savvy,”
Social media at board level is only going to grow in line with growing investment and interest from consumers. At the moment wariness about social’s contribution to the bottom line is understandable.
Agencies and practitioners need to focus on social media evaluation, demonstrating that there’s real value to a company’s bottom line. Only then will board level social media become a reality.